The Easter dozen

30th March 2024

John Wyver writes: as usual, a selection of articles and audio that caught my attention this past week. The image above, which relates to my first choice, is a detail from Anatole Godet’s photograph of“Portrait de Emile Zola” par Manet, 1872-74, an albumen silver print courtesy of the wonderful Getty open content programme. Happy Easter.

Is it even good?: like Brandon Taylor, who for the LRB writes – brilliantly – about Emile Zola’s twenty Les Rougon-Macquart novels [£, limited free access], I too have been working my way through this massive cycle of late nineteenth-century naturalism. And like him, I have been reading them in the excellent new editions, translated by Brian Nelson and others, and published by Oxford World’s Classics.

To date, it’s taken me longer than his two years, and working my way through them in publication order, I have four and a half to go. And I too am stuck part way through The Dream, published in 1888, of which Brandon writes, ‘The book insists so firmly and intensely on its own feelings that the reader is totally shut out.’ Yep.

But he also proposes that, ‘You will probably never read all twenty of Les Rougon-Macquart. I know that. You know that. Let us accept this truth between us.’ Well, no, Brandon. I’ll get there. Just give me time. I know the journey will have been worth it.

Death by Laughter – Female Hysteria and Early Cinema: a hugely engaging New Books Network podcast episode with Maggie Hennefeld talking to host Miranda Melcher about her new book from Columbia University Press.

Hew Locke – The Procession: a suite of ten new films from the Paul Mellon Centre focussed on the artist’s wondrous artwork that filled Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries in 2022-2023. I intend to return to these for a more detailed look, but this is the direct link to the first (which frustratingly, thanks to the site’s ‘domain restrictions’ I’m unable to embed here.

Richard Serra, man of steel (1938-2024): a fine obit by Edwin Heathcote at Apollo for a truly great artist whose sculptures and drawings (featured in a forthcoming show at David Zwirner in London) I have been marvelling at for as long as I can remember; Deborah Solomon’s New York Times piece ‘Serra’s Splash: a public artist’s private breakthrough’ is also well worth reading, as is Calvin Tomkins’ classic 2002 New Yorker profile. The artist’s Tilted Spheres, 2004, at Toronto Pearson Airport is one of favourite works of public sculpture, and I took this photo of it four years after its installation.

Exposed – the true story of a lost documentary: a fascinating and beautifully presented archival story from BBC News, written by Darragh MacIntyre and Chris Thonton, about the long-thought-lost 1972 documentary about the IRA, The Secret Army.

The death of a church: a brilliant, exceptional essay by Robert Colls from a recent New Statesman [£, register for limited free access] about the closure of an old Methodist chapel on Tyneside, and about class and community and so, so much more; exceptional prose, and moving too.

The Belgrano Diary: first episode of an absolutely compelling, and surprisingly surprising, new LRB podcast written and presented by Andrew O’Hagan, with a unique take on the spasm of late-imperialism that was the Falklands War.

What have fourteen years of Conservative rule done to Britain: Sam Knight, writing for The New Yorker [£, register for limited free access], offers a penetrating state of the nation analysis:

If you live in an old country, it can be easy to succumb to a narrative of decline. The state withers. The charlatans take over. You give up on progress, to some extent, and simply pray that this particular chapter of British nonsense will come to an end. It will. Rishi Sunak, the fifth, and presumably final, Conservative Prime Minister of the era, faces an election later this year, which he will almost certainly lose. But Britain cannot move on from the Tories without properly facing up to the harm that they have caused.

Hot off the press – new titles this week: I’m absolutely delighted that Country Life is newly available from the British Newspaper Archive, which this blog post celebrates; a subscription is necessary to access the digitised magazine, but not to read this delightful introduction to the magazine, the cover of the first issue of which back in 1897 was this:

What do professors do?: Paul Musgrave at his substack Systematic Hatreds does his best to normalize academia – ‘to have it seen as a job rather than a calling’.

The digital planet: reviewing new books by Karen Bakker and Ashley Dawson for New York Review of Books [£, register to read just this article], Michelle Nijhuis argues, as the article’s subhead has it, that ‘digital technologies may worsen environmental problems, but they can also assist in the protection and restoration of ecosystems —and strengthen our relationships with them.’

Greetings from 2107: my talk at AI:UK: the super-smart Bill Thompson, via LinkedIn, with a conference talk imagining he is speaking from 2107; as he says,

I was asked to take the perspective of a social humanitarian concerned with the ways AI can address social issues, like poverty, education, and healthcare in underserved communities and to imagine myself. talking to an audience made up of practitioners, policy makers and representatives of organisations involved in the regulation of AI before the singularity.

And finally: there was really only one option this week, although the ‘official lyric video’ for ‘Jolene’ ran this close – and there’s a really wonderful version of Paul McCartney’s ‘Blackbiird’ (sic) too:

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